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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

4 January 2020

Tooth

Our treehouse "living room"

Our treehouse “living room”

20 December 2019

You can’t really call it rain when it looks and sounds like water is simply being dumped out of the sky in huge sheets, bouncing and leaping back off the ground and forming small rivers within minutes. This is what we woke up to. Our stuff is damper than ever as the bouncing spray off of branches and leaves was actually getting into our charming treetop dwelling. We waded to breakfast and then sploshed to our car and fled!

We reached Kandy around lunchtime, the rain still coming down, and enjoyed the crazy snarl of the second city’s traffic, often five or six abreast on a two lane road. A tuktuk cut in front too closely and scraped paint off the front bumper. Bastard. Of course, if I had noticed I could have turned the car a tad into the oncoming traffic and avoided the scrape. This is why driving in Asia is slow and exhausting: you have to be constantly aware of what’s happening and what’s about to happen on three sides of you at all times (the fucker behind you can look after himself).

Biryani

Biryani

Mercifully our hotel is a big old colonial-looking lodge on a hillside, the room is huge and comfortable, and there’s even aircon! So we’ve half a chance of drying everything out. The only dent in the positives is lunch. The nearest place to eat is a ten minute walk down a busy, muddy, pot-holed road with no pavement and full of traffic. Also running freely with soupy water as the heavens are still open. The Garden Cafe is a full-on local restaurant experience, with all the cheap tables, flies, grubby corners, noisy kitchen and tasty cheap food you could want. We had a biriyani, with fiery yellow rice and good accompaniments. Eaten with the fingers, of course, like the locals do. It was very good. Just don’t look too hard in the corners of the restaurant.

As evening came the rain finally stopped and we went to visit the Temple of the Tooth, Kandy’s must-see attraction. It holds the tooth of the Buddha himself, but you can’t ever see that as it lurks hidden in the middle of the shrine, in some kind of massive gold confection dripping with more gold. The temple is set on the shore of the big lake in the very centre of the old city, and at dusk the air fills with wheeling crows, flocking white egrets and sedately flapping bats; flying foxes easily bigger than the crows.

Kandy lake at dusk

Kandy lake at dusk

The temple is not ancient nor especially beautiful, but it’s very much a place of living worship. We went there to watch the puja: a long queue of devotees making offerings to the tooth, to the discordant sound of pipe and drums. There’s an absolute scrum of jostling tourists trying to grab photos and devotees trying to squeeze past. Not very nice. Some tourists had added themselves to the queue of devotees, usually at the instruction of their guide. The priests don’t seem to care much about your level of devotion, as long as you offer a bit of cash, but this still seems a strangely irreverent thing to do. We left the shrine and went to explore the rest of the temple complex, an interesting cluster of buildings and made more atmospheric by the evening light.

When we ambled back into the shrine an hour later we discovered that the crush and scrum when the puja begins is totally unnecessary to endure, as it was now much quieter and the queue of devotees almost ended. Then one of the ushers gestured with a smile that we should duck under the rope and join the end of the queue. So we did. We were only allowed a glimpse of the big golden tooth-bearing confection, but it felt special to have been invited to join in.

Temple of the Tooth

Temple of the Tooth

On the way out of the temple I trod on a piece of broken glass. Who the heck left broken glass lying around in a temple where everyone has to go barefoot? Ouch ouch ouch. And it’s been raining and there’s muddy puddles everywhere and I only have flip-flops. Maureen pointed out that our injections are thankfully up to date, and a day later I can’t feel any soreness or irritation so – fingers crossed – it was a tiny cut and we cleaned it properly soon enough.

I don’t care. I still like the Temple of the Tooth.


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